Yelp ‘Extortion’ Suit Dismissed, But Suspicions Remain

By: Chris Crum - September 3, 2014

Yelp has emerged victorious from an extortion lawsuit, but the reasons why have done little to quell existing suspicions about its business practices.

Various lawsuits have been filed against Yelp over the years, accusing the company of extorting small businesses by hiding positive reviews and showing negative ones in order to get businesses to pay for advertising. Beyond the lawsuits, there are many Internet comments alleging the same thing, and similar stories also told in the media.

None of this has ever been proven, however, and like others before it, a class action suit in California has been dismissed. The US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal from a lower court in the case of Levitt v. Yelp, citing a lack of evidence.

Is the dismissal of this case sufficient to put accusations and suspicions to rest? Tell us what you think.

Marketing Land shares the legal document:

 

Yelp, of course, took to its blog to inform the world about the dismissal. Senior Director of Litigation Aaron Schur writes:

For years, fringe commentators have accused Yelp of altering business ratings for money. Yelp has never done this and individuals making such claims are either misinformed, or more typically, have an axe to grind––whether businesses upset that Yelp will not remove reviews they don’t like, or unscrupulous internet marketing “experts” trying to make a buck off of honest business owners with dubious reputation management schemes.

In 2010, a few businesses took these conspiracy theories to court and filed several class actions against Yelp — all of which were dismissed in Federal court. Today the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of these cases with their ruling in Levitt v. Yelp. Examining the businesses’ best facts after several attempts, the court found no extortion or any other wrongdoing by Yelp. The Court also dismissed as implausible some plaintiffs’ claims that Yelp authored negative reviews about them as part of a plot to obtain ad dollars. Instead, the Court noted that the facts only showed that the reviews were likely from actual customers, noting that “Yelp is a forum for consumers to review businesses, and huge numbers of consumers do just that.”

We are obviously happy that the Court reached the right result, and saw through these thin attempts by a few businesses and their lawyers to disparage Yelp and draw attention away from their own occasional negative review. We at Yelp are moving on, and focusing on our core mission––connecting people with great local businesses.

While Yelp obviously considers this a victory, some in the media have pointed out that the reason for the case’s dismissal doesn’t really prove that Yelp hasn’t engaged in some of the things it’s been accused of.

As Nathaniel Mott at PandoDaily puts it, “Yelp’s extortion charges have been dropped, but that doesn’t mean the company’s innocent.”

“Others have pointed out, however, that the court’s decision was based less on Yelp’s innocence in the common sense of the word and more on the fact that these businesses never had a ‘right’ to positive reviews in the first place,” he writes. “Yelp isn’t necessarily innocent — it’s just not guilty in a way the appeals court cares about.”

Courthouse News Service reports:

Yelp’s alleged conduct cannot be called extortion because its “manipulation of user reviews, assuming it occurred, was not wrongful use of economic fear, and, second, … business owners pled insufficient facts to make out a plausible claim that Yelp authored negative reviews of their businesses,” the three-judge panel found.Emphasis added.

“In sum, to state a claim of economic extortion under both federal and California law, a litigant must demonstrate either that he had a pre-existing right to be free from the threatened harm, or that the defendant had no right to seek payment for the service offered,” wrote Judge Marsha Berzon for the three-judge appellate panel. “Any less stringent standard would transform a wide variety of legally acceptable business dealings into extortion.”

Yelp also faces a class action suit from its own shareholders who have alleged that the sold over $81 million in stock while misleading them about the legitimacy of reviews.

On that note, the company just issued a new round of Consumer Alerts, revealing that it busted some businesses bribing reviewers through messaging on Yelp itself. In another blog post, Yelp wrote:

For example, imagine you were considering using Atticare, a home cleaning company in New Jersey, or JCA Mechanical Plumbing & Heating in New York City, each of whom were the subject of private messages through Yelp offering money or gift cards in exchange for reviews on Yelp. Or if you decided to buy a car from Hooman Nissan in Long Beach, CA, where an employee was caught sending messages to Yelp users offering Clippers tickets in exchange for a 5-star review and even requested including his name in each review. In Las Vegas, Yelp’s detective team found that more than 50 reviews for towing company AAA Anytime INC came from the same IP address, indicating that someone may have been trying to goose their rating. And what’s worse, this is the third time we have warned this particular company about their behavior with a Consumer Alert. Those 50+ new reviews have been submitted since their last alert in February of this year.

If nothing else, this seems to suggest that Consumer Alerts do little to deter businesses from engaging in this kind of behavior. Yelp said itself that this was the third time one business was slapped with an Alert, and that it found over 50 new questionable reviews just since February. It might, however, deter businesses from using Yelp’s messaging to try to get fake reviews.

Here’s one of those “private” messages Yelp shared on its blog:

 

 

“These businesses may actually be providing great products and services, but that’s really what their Yelp rating should be based on, not fake reviews,” writes Yelp’s Rachel Walker. “That’s why Yelp goes to such lengths to protect consumers from this behavior in the first place and inform them of it as well. The good news is that Yelp’s team caught this behavior. We just think consumers have the right to know what’s happening behind the scenes when deciding what businesses to patronize.”

Interestingly, Union Street Guest House managed to escape any consumer alerts in this round. As you may recall, last month the hotel came under fire after it was discovered that it had a policy to charge wedding parties for any negative reviews left by guests in attendance.

A Yelp spokesperson told WebProNews at the time, “For 10 years, Yelp has existed as a platform to alert consumers of bad business behavior such as this.”

To our knowledge the hotel’s Yelp page has never carried one of Yelp’s official consumer alerts, though Yelp did remove a number of negative reviews that were left by people who learned about the hotel’s policy and retaliated. There are still plenty of negative reviews on the hotel’s page, including those mentioning the controversial policy. One even makes a point to say in the review that they’re using a 2nd Yelp account to leave the comments.

Do you believe Yelp holds positive reviews hostage to get businesses to advertise? Do you believe they misled shareholders about review legitimacy? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image via Yelp (Flickr)

Chris Crum

About the Author

Chris CrumChris Crum has been a part of the WebProNews team and the iEntry Network of B2B Publications since 2003. Follow Chris on Twitter, on StumbleUpon, on Pinterest and/or on Google: +Chris Crum.

View all posts by Chris Crum
  • SF Business Owner

    Oh yes, definitely they manipulate and hide positive reviews. We have given up on dealing with them. We had probably a dozen positive reviews, and 1 negative one from a pseudonym acct of a woman who didn’t want to pay her bill for services which she authorized in writing and in fact requested from us (we didn’t solicit her). Whoosh – all the positive ones were gone a few months later. We asked other clients to post their experiences with us, got a bunch more positives one by one … and whoosh again, they were gone. The only thing that remains on Yelp is the one rant from 2010. I talked to people @ Yelp (which is hard to do) and all they do is bow to the mysterious “Algorithm” that purports to be the decider of whether reviews are real or fake.

    I’m pretty disgusted with them, and wish they had both better customer service to handle “exceptions” like this, and better ethics.

    • Samantha Solar

      my experience exactly!

  • http://indianafloorsllc.com/ Hugh Scott

    Let me tell you what Yelp did to me…. They contacted me and ask me to sign up for the “small” fee of “only” $600.00. I told them I did not need them as I already was signed up with many others, Local.com ect…
    They offered to review the info for me so we went through that step, most of the providers they had contact with had all my information correct. The phone call ended with me showing them I did not need them.
    6 Mths later they called me, same senario except this time when the showed me what they offered in review the majority of the providers had my information incorrect, now for the small sum of $600.00 I could have them ” fix” it.
    So who changed the info…. They did, they abused my name and my Intellectual Property for try and force me to sign up with them. I refused and started doing research on Yelp as I wanted to find out how they got so big so quick and if I was the only one they violated the law with. I found out they were Angeled by a person with ties to the Russian Mafia. This explains to me their whole business program.
    They will never get my business and I trust that they will be sued into the dark ages by their shareholders.
    This company is a glorified scammer.

    • James Hamm

      Wait what?! “I found out they were Angeled by a person with ties to the Russian Mafia.” How could you possibly have access to this information? lol Can you provide any resources, links, articles, reports, evidence, etc.? Otherwise you sound like a “glorified” instigator.

      • Make Yelp yelp!

        Are you a Yelp employee, James? You sound like one.

        • James Hamm

          No. Just wondering where such a wild accusation would stem from. Knowledge is power my friend.

          • Demetrios Salpoglou

            James your full of it. Where do you work? Notice how you see my Facebook profile? Notice how you see my linked in profile?

            You are sooo fake it’s pathetic. You have written multiple times defending them on different articles. Why would you do that?

            Oh wait I know. Because you work for yelp or you have a friend or family member that does….

            So who are you and where do you work. You never answered that before.

            Nice move you make yelp look even more crappy than it already is….

          • James Hamm

            I am full of it? lol Look who’s talking 😉 I have not written “multiple times defending Yelp on different articles.” If so, give me the links. I am also NOT defending Yelp in this article either. I simply asked for proof or any evidence that Yelp is linked to the Russian mafia. I use Yelp to discover new eateries just like millions of others do.

          • Demetrios Salpoglou

            James Hamm is fake. Period. Who hides behind avatars defending yelp?

            Give me a break. Get a life. Where do you work James? How can anyone verify your real. Do you have a real Facebook and linked in page?

            Can we call you?

            Cut the bs.

          • James Hamm

            I can’t even make out your avatar either so what difference does that make? Period! lol

            Why would you want to call a total stranger? -_- So what you are saying is that when someone disagrees with your point of view, you call them to verify that they are “real”? And then what? How does that change things? Now that is some real BS.

        • Demetrios Salpoglou

          I agree with you. I am tired of these occasional fake yelpers defending yelp. It’s always an avatar no one can reach.

          Yelp sucks.

          If yelp was an ethical company it would ban the use of anonymous posts and only let people post from verified accounts. Real people with Facebook and google plus and linked in pages and then use a phone verification system like Craigslist uses.

          This would get rid of nearly all the fake reviews on yelp.

          But yelp sucks and they won’t do that.

          • James Hamm

            Since “Yelp sucks”..why don’t you just move on and ignore it? Or, if you have such brilliant ideas, why not apply for a job at Yelp so you can make a real difference?

  • Jim McKinley

    My company sells telecom equipment and I had not thought much about Yelp which I thought was about rating restaurants — until a few years ago when our SEO company said we had bad reviews. It turned out that we had a small handful of reviews from unhappy customers from six or seven years ago. As far as I know, Yelp did not give us a chance to respond to these customer complaints when they actually occurred. I began asking our clients to give us Yelp reviews to give a little more balanced result. Then, I noticed that positive reviews seemed to disappear after a short time. I asked my SEO company and was told that Yelp has algorithms that filter out what they believe are fake positive reviews.

    Bad Yelps that we were not allowed to contest last forever. Good Yelps disappear without explanation.

    If Yelp reviews (bad or good) simply had a maximum lifetime of say 4-5 years, it would be a much better more honest situation.

    • Samantha Solar

      Jim – The same thing happened to us. The bad review from 3 years ago shows but the 5 good reviews that are authentic are hidden! They gave us the algorithm excuse too. Why can’t something be done about this? They are hurting the reputations of many good companies.

      • Hugo

        Same here. Happened to my girlfriend’s father with his plumbing company. We are now using a service to solicit feedback directly and

        privately so we can address it. All the real reviews come through there. Everything we have on Yelp that was positive has disappeared…

  • http://www.hairkuts.com Guys& Dolls Hairkuts

    Without a doubt, yelp is guilty as charged. My contract with yelp was ending, and at the time I had 28 reviews, 25 of them 5-star and 3 of them 1-star. When I told them that I did not plan on renewing, 13 of my 5-star reviews mysteriously vanished and 3 new 1-star reviews suddenly appeared, In fact, I have over 65 5-star reviews that are “filtered” – that is the term yelp uses for blackmail…. they are holding back over SIX PAGES of 5-star reviews and replacing them with 1-star reviews that are over 3 years old and not relevant. I have made my peace with this – yelp is a bully and they insulate themselves from the public. They have removed my good reviews as punishment for not renewing my contract. We have 40 5-star reviews on google and over 600 5-star reviews on demandforce.com and yelp will keep ‘filtering’ us. Good for them. I will be glad to speak with someone from their review department but they don’t have the balls to return my call.

    • Hugo

      They don’t care about business owners and will never speak to you unless you pay.

  • Robert

    Yelp is a scam just like Google.

    The stories of them blackmailing companies to reverse bad reviews and re-instate positives reviews is true. Happened to very good friends of mine who owned a Winery.

  • Ray

    You would get more comments if this was anonymous. Yelp is to be feared by business owners not subscribing to their service.

  • Marcus Aurelius

    I sleep fine at night knowing that Yelp has yet to turn a profit. The guy working at 7-11 for minimum wage makes more money than the shareholders here, most likely has a better code of ethics as well.

  • SF BIZ OWNER

    It’s sad that this sort of irresponsible and unethical business practices are still ongoing. What goes around comes around, Yelp. While the court of laws may have thrown out the case, enough people sharing their experiences with being bullied into contracting for ad services or renewing will definitely impact YELP’s bottom line when new businesses fail to sign up and old ones re-up. I for one take YELP reviews with a grain of salt because of this very practice. SHAME ON YELP.

  • john

    I f you look at your reviews ,at the bottom is a link in white you cant see and it will show you your good reviews that were withheld ,Yelp also uses the excuse that the review is a double and they cant publish it. They wanted the $75.00 deal out of me and I set it up for servies Not goods and they would have the customers fight with me saying it was on goods and many times I had to fight Yelp and tell them it is on
    servics NOT GOODS!

  • Make Yelp yelp!

    Just be patient. Yelp cannot fend off these lawsuits forever. Someone will sue them for the right reason or an insider will blow the whistle on them. When that happens these crooks will disappear like the morning fog. We are Yelp victims ourselves. They have caused us to lose a lot of business, however, we have managed to rebuild without their worthless reviews or advertising. And about those companies who got caught soliciting fake reviews? I quote the Yelp representative we talked to on the phone when we called to complain about competitors who posted fake reviews about our very successful business. “Well,” he stated, “They are just playing the game. You need to figure that out and play the game, too.” We refuse to play that “game”. If we do then we become part of the problem. I am surprised that no one has gone postal at their headquarters. Many people have been financially ruined by, and again I quote Yelp, their “Organic Software”. Sounds like people are in charge of filtering reviews and not some fake Algorithm. I plan to have a huge party when they fold.

  • James Lewis

    Yelp is here to stay and businesses need to stop wasting money through lawsuits and begin using the site in a effective manner for their business benefit. I’m not a fan of yelp (who is?) but I understand that this is where many of my customers are so we have to participate.

    The most important thing is to make sure you are actively participating on the platform and asking your customers for reviews, give out post cards, display the stickers or use a solution like http://thereviewsolution.com/, http://business.trustpilot.com/ or https://www.demandforce.com/ there are so many ways of generating reviews online these days. Make sure you remain active on Yelp and it can be a great lead generator for you. Anyways that’s my 2 cents.

    • bradlevelb

      James – as a consumer I do not even look at Yelp. So why would I imagine that anyone else would when there are other review sites out there that are much better and not immersed in such controversy and deceit. Yelp certainly does not understand the balance between its users and those that are being reviewed – smaller businesses do not have the time or the resources to employ a full time marketing person to deal with Yelp and other reviews. The problem is that these businesses ARE staying active and for nothing when positive reviews are hidden. YELP does whatever it wants – with reviews – so why bother when businesses have no control. The best thing to do business people is FORGET about YELP – work on making your business awesome and forget about yelp – its a joke and a distraction – if its making you mad – go take a breather and remember your in business to be in business – not to fight with an annoying website, its only one website. Good Luck.

    • Demetrios Salpoglou

      That’s total bs. James where do you work and have you ever received money from yelp ?

      • Demetrios Salpoglou

        James Lewis? Does anyone believe James Lewis?

  • Wex

    We had the same negative experience. Positive reviews get hidden and old negative one’s are upfront. Constant barrage of advertising requests. When we start acting interested a couple of older positive reviews are now unfiltered. Till we say a final no to the advertising then mysteriously they are filtered again. Total scam artists……

  • Tiffany

    No, this is not acceptable! I have PERSONALLY been a victim of Yelp’s unscrupulous behavior. I had a couple of fake bad reviews written by my competitor, and numerous good reviews as well. Yelp immediately removed the good ones and left the bad ones. I think Yelp is worthless and I will not do business with anyone who uses Yelp. Disgusting how no one can get a lawsuit through on them, with all they have done!

  • Susanne Chess

    Our store, Fine Fabrics of Santa Barbara, is a victim of this practice. Good reviews are either deleted, and funky reviews that make no sense whatsoever, but are not so good, all posted by individuals who have many unfavorable reviews on Yelp remain.
    The pictures of a project by a client that really has no relevance to our store remains posted on Yelp, but the glowing review that gives relevance to the pictures was deleted. I’ve received many telemarketing calls from individuals claiming to work for yelp advising that if I pay a fee to the firm calling, we’ll be guaranteed good reviews visible, and the not-so-good reviews will go away.

  • Seahawk

    No, the suspicions will always be there because it is obvious to every business owner. Unfortunately, the evidence will only be found in their proprietary “algorithm”. At the end of the reviews in very lite grey, are “more reviews” that most users won’t see or click on to read all the reviews. We have recent ones, very good ones, brief, ones, thorough ones, all kinds, EXCEPT negative ones in that “gray area” What determines which ones get hidden? Why not display them all… they say it is based on relevance to the consumer. We have a couple of negative ones that have been prominently displayed now for almost 3 years even though our Yelp scores are very high. Certainly, for the consumer, more current reviews would be more relevant as personnel changes, products change, management, even ownership changes over time at any business. Try to build your Google reviews… they have exactly the same rating format if you look under your Google ranking you will see up to 5 stars… Their rating system is non-biased or manipulated it’s a free service to encourage more consumers to use the Google search engine. After almost 7 years, Yelp is still not profitable. They will die out eventually and for those of you who heavily rely on your Yelp score will be immediately without reviews when they finally implode.

  • Chris20127

    I do t know why yelp does it but their not recommended reviews are definitely biased. I haven’t left a lot of reviews but the restaurant ones are still up. Meanwhile a positive review I left for a hvac company was moved to “not recommended”. What nonsense. Yelp “knows” who I am! This small business has only 4 reviews showing – all 1star and abusive. Meanwhile there are 8 good reviews ” not recommended”. I just left an updated good review. Let’s see how long that stays up! When it comes to stuff like HVAC Angie’s list is a lot better. THEY left my review up

  • Jayna Sheats

    The best thing to do with Yelp is to ignore the site entirely. There is no way that their system can be considered reliable as it stands, and nothing can be done to correct it without very dramatic changes.

    One way to change it would be to arrange a system in which one could only post a review (once) after patronizing a business. I rely heavily on the review of hotels at the site hotel.info, where after your stay you are asked to provide a review. That may be harder for businesses such as restaurants, shops, etc., but it guarantees that the reviews are not just spam.

    The other solution for a company specializing in reviewing is to hire and use professional reviewers, as in the Michelin model. Maybe a bit old-fashioned, but maybe actually valid.

  • Business Owner Santa Clara

    We had no idea a lawsuit was in action otherwise we would have gotten involved. We had two scathing reviews that sat on top of our “Yelp Review”. These reviews were posted by people that were not members of our club as far a we could tell. These reviews keep finding their way to the top. Not too long after, we were approached by an advertiser with the promise of having the reviews negated or dropped. We refused. Soon after we noticed if anyone posted a good review, by people we could verify were members, shortly after others reviews were posted that were not positive and again could not be verified. We have been around for 20 years plus. Certainly some have issues, but, our business is not like Nordstrom, you don’t like shoe you take it back. We are in a recreational sport industry and people do not like to lose. It seems we get beat up by these guys if we do not choose to advertise. I am thinking about starting a business called “Yelp Back” for business owners so they can post their own stories as it relates to customers or inaccurate reviews. The reviewer is not always right. Freedom of speech has responsibilities!!

  • Davel

    As a small business we have experienced it first hand. In fact if you look at most yelp pages, you see companies who advertise are listed on the same page as the subject small business, and coincidentally the sponsored business have all positive reviews while the sponsored have only negative reviews. It’s the filtering of the reviews that is at the core of the issue. It’s their magical computer that does it…. if it walks like a duck….

  • bradlevelb

    Yea YELP is doing something shady. How do I know? After one of my friends was asked by Yelp for a “consulting” fee, in exchange for “helping” her with some negative reviews that were posted by people visiting her store before it had actually opened for business – I knew to be on the lookout for the same kind of B.S. After receiving a call from a Yelp person – years after we already had some B.S. reviews – asking me to advertise (help clean up our online presence), I explained that most of our business is local and we do not need Yelp to help advertise our business. Since at least one of the negative reviews for our business is fake, I had contacted Yelp at least 2 years before this sales contact and Yelp has done nothing to help remove these reviews – nor even responded to any emails or calls I made – however the lady said she would help if I bought advertising from them – I guess if I recorded the conversation – then that would be evidence. As she was on the phone with me for over an hour trying to convince me that Yelp is helpful – I asked her to call me back the next day – as I had to go to work. She never called back. Sure many positive reviews are still hidden. White collar criminals. If you work for Yelp – you should not be proud of yourselves just because you are making money somehow. Small business owners – focus on your business and FORGET about Yelp. Don’t waste your time. Anything you post to Yelp should just say – “I appreciate your review if you are an actual customer, however, I as well as many other reputable business owners do not approve of YELP, the way it appears to manipulate reviews, and the reports of large amounts of false reviews being used by consumers and Yelp alike for different purposes. I fully advise you to choose another review site to get more real reviews. Have a great day.” Several comments below do indicate that there are many other sites people use.

    YELP – what small business has the time to write reviews or the money to PAY people to write reviews for them? Get over yourselves. No one has said it, but someone told me once that YELP had a side business that was getting businesses to pay them to write positive reviews – then exposing them later if it suited them.

    Small business is the backbone of America. Ignore YELP.

  • Cbmom

    Shady business practices at best. I just don’t trust their reviews anymore. Many, many business owners that I know state that Yelp is a horrible company. Also. according to many sites it is a horrible place to work. When it comes to Yelp, buyers beware. And I don’t mean from fake reviews. It is Yelp that is the problem.

  • bodywise

    The stories are too legion. Everyone complains rather than establishing a true boycott. Some sort of community ACTION. It’s always like Capone saying, “what me involved in crime?” Or the famous line from Casablanca, “there’s gambling here, I’m shocked.” They are all taking the wrong tact. Need some really heavy duty RICO statute lawyers. It took 40 years to bring down the tobacco cabal.

    You need insiders to come forth.

  • rpitera

    Wow, what an eye opener. While I have to take some of these stories with a *SMALL* grain of salt – since the number of happy Yelp clients will obviously be low in commenting here, it still begs to wonder how they have been getting away with this. I was in the process of setting up a client on Yelp, but now I’m strongly considering not getting involved at all. As a consumer I have used the site as a ‘good reference’ but now I feel like I can’t even believe the good reviews. Angie’s list is just as bad with my client getting strong armed on a weekly basis to pay for advertising in return for preferential positioning. Thanks to the commentators for alternative suggestions!

    EDIT: I had to come back after reading the article again. It’s incredible how Yelp puts forth that they are cracking down on fake reviews and extorted reviews, yet every business they mentioned by name that they “exposed” is STILL ON THE SITE, and with good positioning. If the businesses violated the TOS as they say, why weren’t they just bounced?? “Yelp detectives”….What a crock. I’m with you guys and will be advising my clients to stay far away. Thanks for the timely info and any other suggestions for alternatives are really appreciated.

    • Demetrios Salpoglou

      Go look on Facebook. There are tons of companies up there that complain about yelps sketchy business practices. Also if post anything they don’t like on their Facebook page they block you.

      So much for free speech. Yelp can distort views of you but if you post the truth on their Facebook page they block you.

      Yelp sucks.

      Do a search for yelp on Facebook and see how many anti Facebook pages are devoted to yelp. It’s unreal.

  • Small Business Owner

    Bravo on exposing this issue … they are just after the $$’s. We’ve tried for some time to have a negative “half-truth” review removed, but Yelp apparently doesn’t care about what the truth is …. and yes, many great and truthful reviews are “hidden”. I will NEVER support yelp and will share these feelings with everyone I know, in fact, the next time our YP rep comes by touting “Yelp” we’ll use the only power we have to negatively affect Yelp, our advertising dollar.

  • Demetrios Salpoglou

    Yelp is completely dishonest at it’s very core.

    It filters good reviews purposely and primarily only shows bad reviews. They do this to try to induce people to advertise with them in the hopes that their ratings will go up.

    I have been literally harassed by their aggressive sales reps and their tone is if you don’t advertise with them bad things will happen to your rating.

    I don’t care how many pr firms they hire or how many fake writers they get to defend themselves, people can smell bs a mile away.

    Have you ever notice the only people that defend them are fake avatars

  • Diego

    The law suits and comments all over the media is enough for anyone NOT to sign with Yelp, they are doom.

  • Elise

    Oh yes they do! I can assure you that they do it to my business since I won’t pay to advertise with them. We told them we knew what they were doing but they don’t care. It is so highly offensive. They have done so much damage to our reputation but posting a one crazy person’s posts and hiding over 15 good posts. I really, really, really dislike YELP. I hope it is true that what goes around, comes around and they eventually get caught.

  • http://www.kellywsmith.com/ Kelly Smith

    I have personally talked with over 20 companies that testify they are abusing their power and telling them if they pay for their “marketing program” they will see what they can do about the negative reviews. I have also talked to some who did pay the fees and claimed there was NO reduction in negative reviews on Yelp. One person now pays them $1500 a month and just chalks it up to “marketing expenses” because he can’t afford negative reviews about his business.

    If you are asking why I have talked to so many companies about this, its because we help businesses maintain their online reputation by obeying the TOS of all review sites. My website is: 5starmax com

  • Laura

    DESPISE Yelp!!! Not quite sure how they were victorious on these charges, because that is exactly what they do to businesses!! They’ve hidden every single positive review on my business and my husband’s because we choose not to advertise with them. CROOKS!

  • Samantha Solar

    They absolutely hide positive reviews. We have a business in Maryland. In our case they hid 5 positive reviews even when I proved these reviews were authentic and from real customers. They just kept telling me that their “algorithms” wouldn’t allow those reviews to show. However they made sure a bad review showed along with the two other good reviews they did allow to show. I think they are a horrible company that deliberately hides good reviews even if they are real to make it seem like their company is authentic. And yes, they keep trying to sell advertising to us. I wonder if we decided to advertise if our positive reviews would magically show up. They are despicable.

  • http://batman-news.com Annmarie C.

    I wrote a positive review for a local small business that I love, but the Yelp reviews weren’t great, which I didn’t understand. When I checked back later (even a couple of weeks), my review wasn’t there, only the poor to moderate reviews. I mentioned this to the woman who runs the business. She said she had heard many similar stories from her customers since she turned down Yelp’s offer to “help” her with her reiviews and improve her rating if she advertised with them. I find that absolutely deplorable and it disgusts me that I feel like I can’t trust Yelp. What a crock.

    • James Hamm

      I just checked my reviews and two good reviews I gave are in “pending” and I wrote them 6 months ago! No buenos.

  • Spin66 Studio

    We just signed up for a free account and decided it was not the type of service that would really benefit us. We tried to remove it and Twitter would not allow us to do so. They basically said we could cancel our account however they would not take our business information off their site. In a follow-up e-mail and then again via a phone call they reiterated they could post whatever they wanted about the company and we had no legal rights to remove our information.

    Their sales reps. have been trained on what to say as it appeared to be a very rehearsed response.

    We just don’t bother looking at anything on the site and have put all their messages in junk as that’s basically what we think of their business.

  • Dining Out Daily

    I dine out daily and did Yelp reviews for restaurants and other places. I asked one restaurant owner why my reviews were not shown. The restaurant owner said they would be shown the positive reviews if they paid Yelp about $800 a month for advertising or some such thing. I contacted Yelp and asked why my reviews were not shown and they said their computer selects who will be posted and who would not be based on some Algorithm. this is weird because there were other restaurants that my reviews were right on top, but at this place my positive review was not list or calculated into their rating but. Some negative ones from someone else were. Based on this, I believe the restaurant owner that they must pay to get the better reviews. How else would Yelp survive, they need money right! So I stopped to do Yelp reviews.

  • Online Marketer

    Recently I posted a positive review for a contractor who said yelp was holding other positive reviews hostage unless he advertised with them. My positive review was displayed for only two days and can now only be seen by me in my profile, it won’t display on the site with the negative reviews. Yelp is garbage, why should I use it to research reviews if the reviews aren’t complete? As an online marketer I hope they get what is coming to them and consumers turn to other more reliable review sites and they crumble into nothing.

  • Take Charge

    If you are a business owner or manager, then you know Yelp is guilty of requiring businesses to “pay” for the privilege of viewing the positive reviews they’ve earned, while sending poor reviews to the “filter”. Meanwhile, Yelp’s all-powerful “algorithm” never seems to filter reviews left by the disgruntled terminated employee and their posse, or better yet – competitors.
    However, the problem really isn’t Yelp – it’s the millions of lemmings who put stock into Yelp’s ratings, and treat it as gospel. If people didn’t believe this garbage, it wouldn’t matter.
    I have a Yelp account, and have left countless honest, positive reviews for the establishments I feel have earned high praise. Unfortunately, for “unexplained” reasons, those reviews only show up for the businesses who advertise with Yelp. I’m not sure why the courts don’t view this type of evidence (of which there is an infinite supply) as “proof” of extortion. But it’s definitely proof of being a dirt bag.
    I’m ashamed to say that I briefly succumbed to the “extortion”. It was GREAT while it lasted. All negative reviews (save one) were magically sent to the filter prison, while the positive reviews were granted early release. But, as soon as I quit Yelp’s advertising program, everything reversed. Alas, it was a temporary high.
    If the courts won’t do something about Yelp, then it’s all of our jobs to make sure people know NOT to take the site seriously. I would also encourage everyone to refrain from posting negative reviews online, period. If you have a bone to pick with an establishment (or an individual), then deal with it appropriately. Don’t hide behind a computer. That doesn’t solve or improve anything.

  • http://www.teddybearspersonalized.com Steven H

    They manipulate reviews, no doubt about it. I’m an ad manager, and one of my clients had several positive reviews from people with a record of posting. YELP only published the single negative review from a person who created a hit-and-run account, and wasn’t even a client of the company. It took a lawyer (also a client) who contacted YELP, and whatever he told them… all those positives went live, and the negative removed. Yelp claims they can’t manipulate the reviews, yet viola; they did.

    So, YES! Yelp is a review extortion company.

  • alisandra96

    I have witnessed a friend of mine’s nail salon suffer. Check it out by googling “Tubi Nails” in Glendale Arizona. You will see. They burried all the good comments under “not recommended” because they refused to advertise.

  • alisandra96

    Besides – over 180 RIP OFF REPORTS on the same topic can’t ALL be wrong!

  • Team Web USA

    Same here, have given up dealing with them. They sandbox our positive reviews and opted to only show the 1 bad review we had and we don’t even know who the bad review is from. From the way the bad review was written it sounds more like an ex employee than an actual client. So for about a year this showed up as the 2nd listing in Google when our company name was searched, however the dozen or so good reviews we had were being hidden and the user would have to actually click 2 or 3 other options to find them while this 1 bad review was big, bold and showed up like a smack in the face under our profile. We must have sent 100s of messages asking them to either show our positive reviews, remove the bad one or just delete our account all together. Apparently, we dint even create that account cause when we logged into the one we did create we realized it was not the same one. So not only did they do all the stuff above, but they either added our businesses themselves or allowed someone not even affiliated with our company to. As a businesses owner YELP SUCKS….We estimate that the year that yelp page showed up as the 2nd listing when you did a search for us in Google cost us about $200,000. We just decided to give up on dealing with them and started a campaign to just push the site 10 pages deep. We are a web design and marketing company after all. That said if you are having a similar problem give us a call and we can setup a campaign to just remove them from showing up in your search. It cost us 100s of thousands of dollars so the few thousand it cost to get it pushed deep in Google is well worth it.

    Tony Alford
    Team Web USA

    A Dallas Web Design Company

    (877) 823.6316